Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I was over at Amazing Grace-land and found this list regarding book sales. I am not much for lists, but this was precious…

According to a Chris Anderson article in Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2004:

• 950,000 titles out of 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies
• another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies
• only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies
• the average book in America sells about 500 copies
• only 10 books sold more than a million copies
• fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000

Now, the truth is out. I am writing my book because I love you. (Or, maybe I am just good at denial and bad at math.)

Photo from the “Love” series, by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.


Blogger Heather said...

First of all, love the pic.
Yes, I've heard those stats before. I don't like them. Mary DeMuth said she was surprised at how much marketing is involved in being a writer. Yuck. What happened to the good old days of Dickens and Twain and Hemingway?

11:24 AM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Thats a lot of reading!

Like the photo!

Hope you are fine and dany!

Kind Regards

From Martin

12:08 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Heather... yes, it would be nice if all we needed was love... of our craft and our audience... I guess the good old days are out at sea, with the old man. :)

Hey, Martin, good to hear from you.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Yes, indeed, the good ol' days!

Thanks for this reminder!

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that photo! I have three cats and they are definitely like my children!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Statistics sure do lump us together, but they definitely don't define us. They also don't reveal how many of those 94,050,000 lives were changed by reading those small-sellers.

And on the bright side, at least the statistics don't work the other way. I would hate it if only 10 books sold fewer than 99 copies, and mine was one of those. :)

2:33 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... the day you write a book, it will sell more than 99 copies... I do not doubt that... even if I have to buy 10 to push you over the top! (But, that, I'm sure, will not be necessary. :)

9:14 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Dickens was a work horse about marketing himself and his work. Twain too! Hemingway is not someone whose life and career I'd want to imitate. I love love love reading all three of them, though.

The thing that bugs me about those huge numbers is how vague they are about what it means to be "published." Are they counting every vanity press and self-publishing spiral job that gets submitted for copyright? If so, then probably 99% of them are created for a micro-sized audience.

Like the last chapbook I made my friends. Was it a book? Sure. Did it sell? Um, no.

The publishers and marketers I've worked with have said that 10,000 copies is considered a relatively successful book for medium sized presses. (It won't make anyone do cartwheels, but it will pay the bills for the publisher.)

No doubt about it, you can't write for numbers. Anything pays better, but we don't write for money.

11:44 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

Sometimes we just have to persue our passion. And if writing a book is your passion :)...
It is very interesting about books there days. Very sad that people don't read much anymore...

12:29 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I stand corrected regarding those greats. You know those good ole days nostalgia - turn a blind eye.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Al Hsu said...

When I started in the book publishing industry about twelve years ago, there were about 55,000 new books being published in the English language every year. Now, because of changes in self-publishing and print-on-demand technology, there are at least 178,000 new books a year, and some say it's over 200,000 now. Maybe a quarter to a third of those are self-published pieces that used to be called "vanity publishing," but the growth in output reflects not only more books, but some 70,000 new publishers starting up in the last five years or so. A lot of these are things like college alumni associations that just do a collection of essays for their donors, but still, it's a lot of new books out there - I think it's something like five million English language books in print now. Which is why we're moving from 10-digit to 13-digit ISBNs on the back of books. (The average Barnes & Noble or Borders superstore carries maybe 100,000 titles.)

And while total title output has increased dramatically, overall sales has stayed fairly flat and static. Meaning that these more books are being divided up into smaller and smaller niche audiences. A publisher that may have sold an average of 10,000 or 20,000 copies per book ten or twenty years ago may find that comparable books only sell five or six thousand copies each now.

11:38 AM  
Blogger christianne said...

Hey LL -- I'm with everyone else about the numbers thing. But I really am responding to this post to say 1) I love that picture! and 2) That black could very well be my own King Solomon. He's all black, with copper eyes, and weighs about 25 pounds. Only his tail is slim, not bushy. :)

6:23 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wow, L.L. No wonder it's so hard for writers to get books published by well-known publishers. Or is it, that it's easy to get books published by publishers who themselves are trying to get off the ground, yet often do not get far? Interesting! And the very best to your book to come. You are blessed with a great publisher, I believe.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Inihtar said...

Sigh. I have a hard enough time getting people to read my blog. I don't think I'll be attempting a book to further depress myself anytime soon.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That is really interesting. Hard to believe on one hand, but there are a lot of books out there. . . .

10:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Your site is so cool. I loved the stats on the books. No worries... If God is for you, who can be against you? Write away!!! Be blessed, Lynn

6:53 PM  

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